From P. Sreekumaran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Will BJP candidate O Rajagopal upset the calculations of both the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidates in the crucial Neyyattinkara by-election? That is the question resonating through the Nadar-dominated constituency, which is going to the polls on June 2.
The by-election, which is crucial for the LDF, has been necessitated by the resignation of CPI(M) MLA R Selvaraj in protest against what he called attempts by the CPI(M) to eliminate him and his family. Selvaraj, who subsequently joined the Congress, is the UDF candidate from Neyyattinkara.
The BJP has fielded its best candidate in the constituency, hoping to ride the crest of resentment of the majority communities against what the party dubs as ‘total surrender’ by the UDF Government to the India Union Muslim League(IUML) on the issue of a fifth ministerial berth for that party. The sellout to the IUML, the BJP says, has upset the delicate balance in the state cabinet, giving a huge advantage to the IUML in particular and other minorities in general.
What is causing acute concern to the UDF and LDF is the open declaration by Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam president Vellappally Natesan that the constituency would witness a Hindu polarisation of votes against the UDF Government’s appeasement of the minorities. The Nair Service Society (NSS) is also angry with the UDF Government on the undue concessions to the IUML. If the polarisation of Hindu votes in favour of the BJP candidate happens, then that would be bad news or both the LDF and the UDF.
Another advantage for the BJP candidate is that the Christian Nadar votes will be shared by UDF candidate Selvaraj and LDF candidate Lawrence, who belong to that community. Muslims do not count much in Neyyattinkara, which has a substantial fishermen population.
For the CPI(M), retaining the seat is of utmost importance. And the party and the LDF have pulled out all the stops to prevent Selvaraj from romping home the winner, this time, on a UDF ticket.
The party had launched a determined and well-orchestrated campaign accusing Selvaraj of going over to the UDF camp after accepting a huge bribe. The LDF’s campaign against the ‘betrayer’ had created a big impact in the beginning, making it difficult for the Congress to counter the CPI(M) blitzkrieg. Selvaraj’s campaign that he quit the party because of the fear that he would be eliminated by ‘quotation gangs’ engaged by the CPI(M) did not create the desired impact.
But all that has changed since the brutal murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party leader T P Chandrashekharan. The CPI(M) has lost the early edge they enjoyed. The continuing arrest of CPI(M) leaders in connection with the murder has put the party completely on the defensive. The constituency is awash with a resentment against the politics of murder and the CPI(M)’s contention that the party has nothing to do with the murder of Chandrashekharan is falling flat in the face of the rising arrest of CPI(M) leaders. And indications are that the CPI(M) and the LDF candidate could be the victim of the redhot anger of the voters of the constituency.
The outbursts of leader of the opposition VS Achuthanandan against the state CPI(M) leadership on the murder issue has also made things extremely difficult for the CPI(M). VS’s outright condemnation of the politics of murder has been well received by the voters of Neyyattinkara. And both the UDF and the BJP are claiming that the bold VS stance would benefit them. True VS would be campaigning for the LDF candidate in the last lap of the campaign. But in the light of his new and aggressive stand against the official leadership of the CPI(M) it remains to be seen whether the campaign will have any beneficial impact on the chances of the LDF candidate.
The UDF has won from the constituency eight times while the LDF has been the winner six times. Top leaders of all the parties are now undertaking whirlwind tour of the constituency in a lastditch effort to woo the voters The importance CPI(M) attaches to the by-election can be gauged from the fact that state CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and other top party leaders are camping at Neyyattinkara to shake off the aftermath of the Chandrashekharan murder. If the public mood is any indication, the CPI(M)-led LDF is facing an uphill task. The million dollar question is whether BJP candidate and former Railway Minister O Rajagopal will prove the dark horse even as both the UDF and LDF are locked in a life-and-death tussle to win the Neyyattinkara battle. (IPA Service)